Sent in by Steven G
I got an e-mail a bit ago, asking me the above question regarding my change of marge after so many years a devoted Christian. Here is the bulk of my reply, which expounds upon the concepts of theism, atheism and agnosticism.
Well, it all started when I began deliberating hell more completely. It was always a vague notion which church leaders purposely ignored quite a bit, or when speaking of it, did so in a non-descriptive, passive way. They would almost never preach the descriptive passages which depict agony and torment. So, during a certain phase of my life, I became very serious about studying the Bible with exegesis of various passages, and what I came to be immersed with unsettled me (to say the least!). I realized that multiplied billions of people were going to be sent to an unending torture chamber: The "Lake of Fire," like an immense bowl of lava, wherein resurrected, damned souls will flop about screaming and smoking and weeping without end in bodies that can fully experience pain, yet never death. And I--where would I be? I would be feasting and laughing and happy and full of love and comforts. The former could be cast there with such minor sins as lying and being cowardly. I realized there was no justice in such a scenario. It was unboundedly sadistic. I began to pray to be erased. For two months I prayed to God to simply erase me. I knew that in the Kingdom of Heaven I would have perfect knowledge, perfect perception, and this meant that I would be utterly aware, every moment of my being, that there existed a vast population of people--people just like myself, who were screaming from irrevocable suffering. A certain passage, which Jesus Himself quoted oft from (Isa. 66), says that those who make it into his kingdom will actually pass by these burning bodies, and they will be an abhorrence to all. But the only difference between myself and them, is that these just couldn't believe, or just didn't stop lying, or just didn't stop being cowardly, etc. There is no justice in that. None at all. So, because I believed this all to be absolutely true, I wished that I had never existed. I didn't want to die--I wanted to vanish. This is where it began.
After some time, I came to accept that this cannot be just, and therefore, perhaps man got his fingers into the writing of the Bible. I began to search it all--no longer holding any premise as precious and above reproach. It all came under scrutiny. And, consequently, I came to realize that I had already from childhood been conditioned to unquestioningly accept certain premises. One of them was that the Bible was the inspired Word of God. I decided I cannot just believe that without proper testing--after all, every child in every religion thinks the same of their "Holy Book." Once I dissected it--much the way I had with the texts of other faiths while as a Christian, and examined its roots, and any possible contradictions and errors, I came to understand what I had hidden from myself for so long through my willful ignorance (spelled -- "brainwashing"): the truth that the Bible, like every other written work, was the product of the imagination of humans, and ancient men at that, and was in no part "divine." There was nothing I could say was of divine origin for sure. I became deist, and later, agnostic.
I should say, though, that I was atheist for a short while--and my beliefs currently are perhaps the same, but something came to my realization when considering the philosophy of the existence of God, and that was, there can be no such thing. Not only "no God," but no "theist." And, therefore, there can be no "a-theist." If there is no positive, there can be no negative. "Theism" is a misnomer. It is sub-par even, to something made up-- "toothfairianism," let's say. Well, if a group of people believed in the tooth fairy (as many little kids do), then shall we erect an entire classification for these for their belief? "Toothfairianists?" And shall we further provide a classification for all of those who do not hold this belief? Say, call them, "atoothfairianits?" Of course not. Why? Because it would be silly. But would it be correct, nonetheless? Yes, it would. After all, they do actually believe in tooth fairies, and the others do not. However, the important point here is that a "tooth fairy" is a definable, fathomable thing--however mythological. It is nevertheless fathomable. You could draw a tooth fairy. You could describe it, and give it characteristics and confine it to time, space and matter. The word "tooth fairy" is not a misnomer, therefore. However, the word "God" is a misnomer, only. How? In that, it (He) is only describable by way of what is indescribable, which in turn is only fathomable because of what is actual, and NOT because of WHAT IT (the indescribable) IS.
This is tricky to explain, but once it is understood, it is painfully simple. In fact, I believe the only reason so many theologians have overlooked its simplicity, is because they have, with little or no question, accepted certain premises. These premises are the very foundation of any faith in any deity. These premises are the actual "indescribables" mentioned above. These premises, are, God. What is God? He is indescribable. You may say His form resembles a human's, but if you are right, you are also wrong. You may say He has a mind, but if you are right, you are also wrong. You may say He is a "He," but if you are right, you are also wrong. You may say He has emotions, but if you are right, you are also wrong. etc. How? You are right, in that this is how you may understand certain of His attributes, but you are immediately binding him to your understanding, as well as to time, space, and matter, and once you have, you must be wrong, because He remains unfathomable. He is infinite. He is omnipresent. He is omnipotent. He is unfathomable. He is perfect. He is omniscient. He is all-loving. He is, NOTHING. I will tell you why: what is infinite? What is one less than infinite? "Infinity" does not exist. Language is funny in this way. Certain words have an actual converse, others do not--but all words have a "converse," simply by the nature of words--some exist on paper, in that you can write them, but they cannot exist otherwise. Positive has a converse--negative. Up has a converse--down. In--out. East--west. Smell--no smell, etc. Some are supposed converses, but not complete, like clean--unclean, and hard--soft. These are not complete, because, "unclean" can happen with one stain or one hundred, and hard and soft have varying degrees, of course. So, you would have to tweak it a little, and say: clean--completely unclean, and, completely soft--completely hard.
But here we have our first misnomers: what is "completely unclean?" What is "completely soft?" what is "completely hard?" They do not exist. We can carry this into more obvious things even: a wall. A wall exists. What is the converse of "a wall?" No wall. What is "no wall?" Nothing. Now, when applied to the supposed attributes of God, the same happens. He vanishes. How? He either, like "completely unclean/ hard/ soft," cannot exist, or, like "no wall," He becomes nothing. Here's how: infinite... God is infinitely everything good/ pure/ loving/ etc. What is infinite? This is only answerable from the root of that word--finite. What is finite? "A determinable amount of a thing or things." Finite is like the wall--it is there. Even if their number grows extremely large, they are still there. But once we force finite to converse--we get "infinite," which is, "An indeterminable amount of a thing or things." Or, simply, NOTHING. Infinite is a misnomer. There is no such thing. It is only used in scientific terminology to best describe something so vast, that no quantifying amount could aptly describe it. It, as it is, is irreducible. You could subtract 1 x 10 to the 900 quadrillionth power from it, and it would not lose any value. Like 0. 0 nothing. In theory, you can play around with negative numbers, but they do not actually exist. Now, if you add anything to infinity, even that same extreme number above, you will not have changed its value at all. Is the same true of nothing? Actually, yes it is. Nothing is what it is--nothing. If you add anything to "nothing" you have not changed "no thing's" value, you have simply placed something that has its own value in "no thing's" space. Therefore, if God's qualities are infinite, they are nothing, and therefore, "God" is nothing.
Additionally, "Omni-whatever" is the equivalent of not existing, just as that "hardest" and "softest" and "dirtiest" do not exist independently--they can only describe something finite. Thus, when you say "God is omnipotent," then you are saying, "God is the converse of finite potency," which is "God is infinite potency," which, as we've seen, means "God is nothing." "God" is not knowable by potency, and therefore He cannot be categorized by such, and therefore in this instance, both "God" and "omnipotent" are both misnomers, as they are both open-ended and in this context unreal. Now, a person could be the "most potent" of all people, or, a "god" in the sense of a "lord" who is worshiped perhaps the greatest of all "gods" (both close-ended ideas), but "God," the great open-ended idea, is a misnomer.
Thus, we find the same applies to all of God's attributes. Then it comes to mind--what is God, then? God is a gap. It is what we fill the, "I don't know" section with. It is a way of saying you know, with a word which by its essence means "Unknown," and therefore are saying "I don't know," in a concealed, mystical sort of way. Who created the universe? "I don't know (God)." Therefore, "theist" is a misnomer, and thus so is "atheist." A theist, without knowing it, is saying "I believe in nothing (God)," which is actually saying nothing. An atheist is replying, "I do not believe there is empirical evidence to suggest nothing (God) exists," which is actually responding to the belief in nothing (God), with the unbelief in nothing (God). If you are theist, everything you think you know about God, you do not know; therefore, both believers, and non-believers, whether they understand it or not, are agnostic.
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)